When you’re entrusted with the will and other affairs of someone you care about, it’s best to prepare ahead. Of course that sounds awful, but grief will make the fiduciary responsibilities you’ve accepted even harder. If you are lucky to have the luxury of time, follow these expert tips and gear up.
Phelps LaClair encourages carefully gathering and organizing documents and information you will need when the time comes to begin acting on your duties. Knowing you have everything—or at least most—of what you will ultimately need, will relieve an enormous amount of stress—and delay—later. Suggested documents that can be organized in advance include:
- Birth certificate
- A copy of the will or trust
- Investment records, bank statements, and other financial documents
- Marriage certificates and divorce decrees, if applicable
- Vehicle and other asset titles
- Property deeds
Of course it is also helpful to make notes of key contacts, including the lawyer who made the will, and to gather up and securely file information and passwords that will be needed to access accounts, digital assets (e.g., crypto or NFTEs) and social media profiles. The availability of current appraisals for assets like real estate or vehicles will come in handy too—as you will ultimately need to know their value. Upon the death of your loved one, as executor, you will need to file a copy of the will and death certificate in court, initiating the probate process. Be prepared to be busy with numerous administrative responsibilities. Phelps LaClair advises executors:
You will also need to pay the decedent’s outstanding bills, cancel their subscriptions, terminate leases, and notify their bank of their death…Another important duty of the executor is to locate, evaluate, and manage the decedent’s assets as well as their debts. You should be able to locate the assets with the help of the will, the decedent’s lawyer, and/or their financial statements. Next, you must get appraisals for assets such as real estate and vehicles to determine their current value…As the executor, you will also need to create a bank account and get a tax identification number for the estate. Any money owed to the decedent as well as any of their accounts without a named beneficiary will go into the bank account. You will also need to file the decedent’s final tax return and pay any taxes owed by the decedent or their estate.
While carry out all these duties, an executor has a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of the estate and beneficiaries. That’s why executor bonds have long served as a protection. Sometimes these bonds are specifically requested by the court during probate. Essentially, an executor bond guarantees the faithful performance of the executor in accordance with the law. Colonial Surety Company makes it quick and easy to get an executor bond: get a quote online, fill in the information and enter a payment method. The bond can then be e-filed or printed from anywhere—even your lawyer’s office or zoom room.
Helpful To Know
Ordinarily, and simply put, probate is the legal, public process that settles our affairs when we die. Most states offer expedited processes depending upon the level of assets involved. The terminology, particulars and timing of probate vary by state. Phelps LaClair notes for example: In Arizona, an estate only requires probate if:
- Any of its assets do not have a beneficiary designation made through a will, trust, transfer on death deed, or other legal document
- The combined assets in the estate are worth over $75,000
- The estate includes real estate property valued at over $100,000
Legal experts also point out that when the goal is speedy distribution of assets to beneficiaries, careful estate planning is helpful. For example, Frank & Kraft share this tip: “Convert assets to non-probate assets. Assets gifted in your Will must go through probate whereas non-probate assets bypass probate altogether. Converting assets to non-probate assets when possible, therefore, only makes sense. Common examples of non-probate assets include trust assets, proceeds of a life insurance policy, certain types of jointly held property, and funds held in a “payable on death (POD)” account.”
Estate Planning Law Practice?
Colonial Surety has a full portfolio of easy, speedy fiduciary bonds including: administrator, estate, executor, guardian, personal representative, probate, surrogate, trustee, conservator and more. Use our fully digital fiduciary bond portfolio to quickly, efficiently and affordably obtain a wide variety of required bonds.
In addition to providing bonds directly to the general public, Colonial offers The Partnership Account® for Attorneys . This free business service provides user-friendly client management dashboards, enabling attorneys to easily coordinate, view, complete and e-file all the court and fiduciary bonds needed to keep clients and cases moving forward.
See for yourself today: The Partnership Account® for Attorneys.
Founded in 1930, Colonial Surety Company is a direct writer of surety bonds and insurance products. Colonial is rated “A Excellent” by A.M. Best Company, U.S. Treasury listed, and licensed for business everywhere in the USA.